No Prayer for the Dying

Funerals are so weird. Despite the fact that they focus on one person’s life, that person really does not have much of a hand in the process. How strange that funerals are so personal, yet at the same time very impersonal in relation to the deceased. What better argument that funerals and prayer are often for the living?

Not that this is always the case. The actual ceremony is for the living. But it’s hard to really give a good ceremony in which people have a good time. That’s what I would want for my funeral. A good fun time to be had by all! A real fun, hilarious, bitter-sweet bash! Because you only remember the good times. The bad times slip away into the shadows of the mind, only reappearing to haunt us.

I guess there are three reasons to pray for the deceased, all of which are similar in their needs: (1) rebirth, reincarnation, salvation or whatever your choice in transmigration, (2) assuaged feelings in the family, friends and community of the deceased, and similarly (3) maintenance of ceremony, ritual, and needs of a congregation or tradition.

The idea of praying as a group or having a specialist (as in Tibetan Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) pray for the newly deceased seems logical enough to me. In particular, if the deceased has been careless or unprepared for their death, their mindstream or “dedicated energy stream” might not be very focused. The kind of energy a person carries around is not purely retained in some empirical physical body. People have a kind of omnidimensional presence which can get divided, whisked away, or maybe even shred up without proper guidance or practice. Yeah, at least that’s what I’ve surmised without any concrete evidence.

People who have developed their shen (spirit) are probably less in need of someone to actually pray for their rebirth. It’s still a good thing to do, if only for the sake of ceremony, but there is a point where one’s spirit has gone beyond the prayers of laypeople. Some people do not need prayers as much as others, or sometimes it is not the deceased person but their community and ancestors who require them. This is why we mourn when a truly wonderful or virtuous person dies. We need to pray for ourself, for our own future in the shadow of their lives.

Hee hee, it’s kinda like in SIT: Zen Teachings of Taisen Deshimaru when a student asks why they’re doing a kito (commemorative prayer service) for the Pope. And then whether they should ever do one for Deshimaru himself. But he’s like, “I am beyond a kito, but if it makes you feel better…” Haha, Deshimaru had the most annoying, hilarious, charming way of talking to people. I guess a lot of recent generation Zen masters from Japan are like that, yeah? So off-the-wall goofy and arrogant it becomes funny.

Man… I better cool off with the Deshimaru, though. What am I, some kind of cult member? Pshh!!!

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One Response to “No Prayer for the Dying”

  1. Life and death are closely intertwined, I can see. Read more with me!!! Particularly my haiku. You might find them uplifting! Peace be with you~

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